What’s the deal with Mason Raymond?

What is Mason Raymond?

Until this year, Mason Raymond was a puck-moving forward who drew penalties, pushed the play forward, and set up chances in the offensive zone. His unspectacular ability around the net didn’t convince many people of his value, but the hidden things Raymond did away from the puck were why the Canucks wanted him in the lineup game after game after game.

Raymond secretly turned in a career year last season, doing things silently that helped the Canucks to a dominant regular season and their first ever Presidents’ Trophy win.

Obviously, when the roster doesn’t change all that much and you improve by 14 points over the course of the season, you’ve probably benefitted from a few career seasons. Henrik passed the scoring title, as he is wont to do, to his brother Daniel. Here’s his start rate over those seasons:

  Off Zone Start %
2008 54.8%
2009 49.9%
2010 57.7%
2011 71.4%
2012 78.6%

(This data, and much of the other data, comes from behindthenet.ca)

Now, you’ll say “where did Henrik’s points go if he got more offensive zone starts in 2012?” Nowhere. Henrik dropped from 59 even strength points to 54 this season, which any shooting slump could do. Part of the problem was the powerplay, and part of the problem was that the extra start rate didn’t generate any extra offensive zone chances:

  Off Zone FO W
2008 166
2009 161
2010 193
2011 289
2012 285

Faceoff wins spiked from 2010 to 2011. The Canucks had 100 more starts at 5-on-5 to work with, 1099 to 1199, according to timeonice.com, one year to the next, and that’s where Henrik benefit. Where did those starts come from? Mason Raymond’s possession rate:

  Corsi Rel Ozone Finish (Rate) Drawn Penalties (Rate)
2009 3.0 234 0.437 21 1.7
2010 13.8 383 0.477 27 1.5
2011 17.5 338 0.532 21 1.4

You can see the places where Raymond helped the Canucks. His career-high in Relative Corsi (team shot attempt differential when on-ice minus team shot attempt differential when off-ice, expressed as a rate per 60 minutes) in 2011 led to a career-high in offensive zone finishes. His ability to draw penalties also helped the club who had a pretty good powerplay.

Was it Raymond’s teammates, well, check out the Corsi rates of the teammates he played with the most in 2011, both with and without Raymond:

2011 With Raymond Without Raymond Diff
Kesler 57.8% 56.3% 1.5%
Bieksa 58.5% 50.5% 8.0%
Hamhuis 58.3% 53.9% 4.4%
Edler 57.6% 51.3% 6.3%
Hansen 59.2% 48.9% 10.3%

Raymond positively influenced the possession of the Selke winner, and the team’s top three defencemen (I excluded Christian Ehrhoff because he wasn’t with the team this season). You know the scene from Moneyball where all the scouts are sitting around the table discussing Scott Hatteberg? “He can’t throw and he can’t field, but what can he do?” I feel we discussed Raymond for hours on end on Twitter the last two seasons.

“He can’t shoot and he can’t hit. But what can he do?”

“He drives play.”

Driving play, the single thing that general manager Mike Gillis has sought to do. At the trading deadline, he took a good look at the roster and decided that Samuel Pahlsson was a better fit than Cody Hodgson. At the end of last season, he decided that the money that was going to be given to Christian Ehrhoff for his offensive output wasn’t worth the horror show in Ehrhoff’s own end. He decided to spend nearly $3M for a third line player because he could do one thing that led to driving play: winning a faceoff.

Raymond had improved every single year from a driving play perspective. He looked awful doing it. He kept to the perimeter, and whenever he got inside, he’d fall over or shoot it into the goalie’s crest. But it was the area on the ice that Raymond was making the mistakes, the offensive zone, that Gillis or Alain Vigneault really cared about.

This season?

Same five guys. How did they do with and without Raymond?

2012 With Raymond Without Raymond Diff
Kesler 53.2% 57.3% -4.1%
Bieksa 54.1% 55.0% -0.9%
Hamhuis 52.5% 55.8% -3.3%
Edler 49.9% 53.3% -3.4%
Hansen 54.1% 50.5% 3.6%

Can we fill in the underlying chart?

  Corsi Rel Ozone Finish (Rate) Drawn Penalties (Rate)
2009 3 234 0.437 21 1.7
2010 13.8 383 0.477 27 1.5
2011 17.5 338 0.532 21 1.4
2012 -0.1 257 0.479 10 0.8

Raymond regressed in a hard way this season. He couldn’t hold the puck, he couldn’t draw penalties, and he wasn’t finishing in the offensive zone any more than he had been in 2010. He stopped improving, he cost Henrik his offensive zone opportunities and was being dragged around the ice by Ryan Kesler rather than helping move the play. Him and the defencemen hardly saw a change in their games “without Raymond” from 2011 to 2012, so the drop-off in Raymond’s ability to move the puck could be due to the fact that Raymond can’t move the puck anymore.

  Goals/82 Shots/GP Sh%
2009 12.5 2.0 7.6%
2010 25.0 2.6 11.5%
2011 17.6 2.8 7.6%
2012 14.9 2.3 8.0%

We’re looking at numbers that we haven’t seen from Raymond since his first full year with the club when he was a 23-year old. Now he’s 26 and is back to where he was as a project.

Nothing wrong with the kid. I’m sure he’s a good guy who works hard and earned every inch of ice-time that he had the last three seasons. But when somebody breaks your back with a pretty cheap hit, you’ll probably fall off the radar.

There’ll be a hockey team this summer who recognizes what Raymond can bring to a hockey team and will take him on. For a team like the Vancouver Canucks, who need to have at least 11 guys who can play given how small their championship window has become, I don’t think that this team is a good fit for him any longer.